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Energy Pros & Cons

Nuclear Power

Nuclear power plants provide about 17% of the world's electricity.

Nuclear power can generate large quantities of energy without releasing greenhouse gases
It does not depend on the weather
The UK's largest reactor generates the equivalent output of 1188 wind turbines. A nuclear fuel pellet, about half an inch long, provides the same amount of electricity as one and a half tonnes of coal

Spent fuel from nuclear power plants remains toxic for centuries and there is no safe permanent storage facility for it
Dismantling old reactors safely is highly expensive
Mining and enriching uranium also produces toxic waste
Uranium is a finite resource, although there are ways of recycling spent fuel
Fears of nuclear material stolen from power facilities being used by terrorists in a so-called "dirty bomb" have increased since the 11 September attacks
Nuclear power is currently generated from nuclear fission - splitting the nuclei of atoms. Nuclear fusion - combining atomic nuclei - is potentially cleaner because the fuels involved are different. But scientists have been trying to harness the energy from fusion for decades and some say a working fusion generator is still a lifetime away.
There is a close link between civil and military uses of nuclear power


Reactor core: Fuel rods of enriched uranium feed reaction
Moderator: Water pumped into reactor core slows neutrons to speed at which fission is most likely to occur
Control rods: Slow reaction by absorbing neutrons
Steam generator: Water heated by reaction turns to steam
Steam outlet: Steam spins turbine to generate electricity
© Alternative Use Group plc, 2013